Experiments with Truth: Analysis

Nonviolence and neolibralism, from Gandhi to Gene Sharp

Our central argument is that the hegemonic story of nonviolent resistance is reinforcing the underlying hegemonic story of neoliberalism. It is hard to dispute that the most popular brand of nonviolence, articulated by Gene Sharp and his followers, has helped people overthrow authoritarian regimes across the globe. Yet Sharp’s non-violence also promotes the spread of neoliberal freedom and democracy, which cause multiple forms of visible and invisible violence. This article’s first section examines significant details in Sharp’s hegemonic story of nonviolent resistance and problematizes its limited understanding of violence. The following section relates Sharp’s approach to Iran’s Green Movement and Egypt’s Revolution. It shows how strategic nonviolence enabled these social movements, but also pushed them toward neoliberalism. The final section returns to the ideas and practices of Gandhi for a counter-hegemonic story of nonviolent resistance as well as freedom and democracy. We conclude that Gandhi’s approach is more promising for people struggling toward ways of life promoting dignity, self-rule, and love of humanity, both in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

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